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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James


CHAPTER XV

The business was practically settled from the moment I never followed him.

It was a pitiful surrender to agitation, but my being aware of this had somehow no
power to restore me. I only sat there on my tomb and read into what my little friend
had said to me the fullness of its meaning; by the time I had grasped the whole of
which I had also embraced, for absence, the pretext that I was ashamed to offer my
pupils and the rest of the congregation such an example of delay.

What I said to myself above all was that Miles had got something out of me and that
the proof of it, for him, would be just this awkward collapse. He had got out of me that
there was something I was much afraid of and that he should probably be able to make
use of my fear to gain, for his own purpose, more freedom. My fear was of having to
deal with the intolerable question of the grounds of his dismissal from school, for that
was really but the question of the horrors gathered behind. That his uncle should arrive
to treat with me of these things was a solution that, strictly speaking, I ought now to
have desired to bring on; but I could so little face the ugliness and the pain of it that I
simply procrastinated and lived from hand to mouth. The boy, to my deep
discomposure, was immensely in the right, was in a position to say to me: “Either you
clear up with my guardian the mystery of this interruption of my studies, or you cease
to expect me to lead with you a life that’s so unnatural for a boy.” What was so
unnatural for the particular boy I was concerned with was this sudden revelation of a
consciousness and a plan.

That was what really overcame me, what prevented my going in. I walked round the
church, hesitating, hovering; I reflected that I had already, with him, hurt myself
beyond repair. Therefore I could patch up nothing, and it was too extreme an effort to
squeeze beside him into the pew: he would be so much more sure than ever to pass his
arm into mine and make me sit there for an hour in close, silent contact with his
commentary on our talk. For the first minute since his arrival I wanted to get away
from him. As I paused beneath the high east window and listened to the sounds of
worship, I was taken with an impulse that might master me, I felt, completely should I
give it the least encouragement. I might easily put an end to my predicament by getting
away altogether. Here was my chance; there was no one to stop me; I could give the
whole thing upturn my back and retreat. It was only a question of hurrying again, for a
few preparations, to the house which the attendance at church of so many of the
servants would practically have left unoccupied. No one, in short, could blame me if I
should just drive desperately off. What was it to get away if I got away only till dinner?
That would be in a couple of hours, at the end of which-I had the acute prevision-my
little pupils would play at innocent wonder about my nonappearance in their train.

“What did you do, you naughty, bad thing? Why in the world, to worry us soand take
our thoughts off, too, don’t you know?- did you desert us at the very door?” I couldn’t
meet such questions nor, as they asked them, their false little lovely eyes; yet it was all
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James



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